Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Climber White and Lemon Garlic Chicken

We enjoyed the Clif Family Winery Climber White wine a few nights ago. This interesting wine is a blend of 4 varietals - 3% Muscat, 12% Pinot Blanc, 81% Sauvignon Blanc, and 4% Chenin Blanc. This is not an "oak-y" white wine, but instead is very crisp and light. I want to quickly share my tasting notes based on the 5 S's -

See - A lovely light golden color, completely clear.

Swirl - Very slight "legs" or "tears" on the glass. Pretty to swirl in the glass as the smell was released.

Smell - Incredible fruits. Pear, Citrus, Grapefruit. The smell was light and seductive.

Swish - Not too sweet. Very light, almost delicate fruity-ness, not too tart.

Swallow - Excellent. Gently warm on the swallow, with a smooth and deliciously yummy finish!

Now I am sure that this has been written up with all kinds of wonderful quotes, with things about "notes of fresh hay" and "gorgeous fruity medley." You will have to forgive me as I can only tell you what I saw, smelled, and tasted. And my conclusion? Delicious, light, easy on the tounge, not overly sweet, a perfectly lovely summer white wine. I liked it. A lot.

So, after tasting this wine, I think it would go with just about anything from a mexican dish to your favorite cookies. Which is saying something. For our dinner we had Lebanese Garlic-Marinated Chicken on the Grill from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. I have never had a recipe from this book that I didn't love, and Nancy's writing is a treat to read. We had our chicken with a wonderful salad, fresh bread, and this excellent wine, and it was truly a fabulous summer feast. Recipe follows. Try it, and enjoy!

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
4 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat blade of a knife
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chicken breasts are usually sold split in half. Cut each breast half in half again and put them in a bowl.

Chop the garlic coarsely and in a small bowl crush it with the salt, using the back of a spoon, until you have a smooth paste. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, paprika, and pepper. Beat well with a fork and pour the marinade over the chicken pieces. Mix well and turn the pieces to coat them liberally with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 5 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to cook, prepare the grill, leaving plenty of time for it to heat up if you're using charcoal or wood. When the fire is hot enough, place the chicken pieces on the grill and set the grill a good 8 inches from the source of the heat. Use the marinade remaining in the bowl to baste the chicken frequently as it cooks. Grill for 10 minutes or longer on each side, turning each piece once. Test for doneness and serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

P.S. Finishing the bottle the second day? Equally good. And I REALLY like that. :)

A toast to each of you - Friendship's the wine of life. Let's drink of it and to it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wine Woot

Wine Woot is a great web site for getting some great wine deals and learning more about the wines you drink. They put up new deals usually twice a week, and the wines are usually excellent values. They get pretty good prices and ship the wines right to your front door. I have had some great success trying out new (to me) wines with Wine Woot, and the community is great for learning and discussing. The wine makers and others from the winery generally get involved in the discussions as well, so you get some good insight into how the wines are made and the back story is usually pretty interesting.

I recommend you roll on over to Wine Woot and check it out. Tasting notes will be forthcoming on the recent Clif Family Winery Climber White wine, which I enjoyed last night with spicy lemon garlic chicken, along with that recipe. A lovely summery dinner and wine that you will want to try before we get to far into fall!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wines I would drink again

In my kitchen were a number of empty wine bottles that I had collected over the years. I kept these bottles because the wines were yummy and I wanted to be able to remember them when the chance came for a re-purchase.

I would rinse the bottles out when empty and lined the windows with colorful reminders of wonderful wine-ful afternoons and evenings. But this week during my surprise two week hiatus from blogging I noticed that the bottles were looking a bit odd. Dirt and dust was collecting inside the bottles as well as on top of them. They didn't look exactly pretty anymore. And on top of that, I don't remember anything about the drinking of these wines! If they were great, good, heavy, needed decanted, were delicious, needed to rest - nothing.

I took them all down and took pictures of the labels and am sharing them with you here. I am actually going to put the labels in my wine notebook, and when I have a chance to drink these again I will share tasting notes with you. In the mean time I will do some research on these wines and share that with you in the coming weeks - but you should also know that they were good enough to hang on too even while they became dust collectors, and I therefore recommend them.

Tomorrow - a little about Wine Woot.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Quick Wine Quote

"There are many ways to the recognition of truth; Burgundy is one of them." -Isak Dinesen

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 5 S's of the wine ritual.

My beautiful bottles of red and white are waiting for me to open them. I have ordered more, and think that my first tastings and writings will be rather random. I imagine as time goes by that I will get settled into writing about flights and types and matching wine and food - ah, I am already looking forward to having a basic understanding of what tastes good and what I like. I am already looking towards the day when a wine list won't be so intimidating. Where I can pick out a wine that tastes good at a dinner party and be confident of my choice.

But just to be totally honest, I am intimidated now. So as to not be completely ignorant, I have been researching the history of wine, along with the appropriate way to taste wine along with the hows and whys. It doesn't sound so difficult, to taste wine. But there is more than one step in the ritual, and each step engages your senses. Almost like tasting wine really requires your eyes, nose, and mouth - not just your taste buds.

Basically, the five really simple steps are to See, Swirl, Smell, Swish, and Swallow. The more I read and learn, the more I realize that I could write a complete entry about each of these. In fact, many people have. And knowing me, I have to be honest with you - soon, I will too. After all, this is wine through my perspective, right? But not today. Today, I need to go down and put some white wine in the refrigerator and open a bottle of some yummy red. So for now, how about high level?

First, we See.
Pour a quarter glass of some wine that make you happy. Pick up the glass and hold it at an angle, looking down on it against a white background (tablecloth, floor). The wine should be beautiful to look at, clear and sediment free. Next, look at the color and depth of the wine. According to the learned, young red wines are more purplish at the edge where the wine meets the glass, while more mature red wines have a redder rim. Even older red wines may have a darker reddish brown or even brick tone. White wines vary from pale greenish yellow to deep gold. The older whites run to the golden tones. One expert I listened to explained that red wines lose color as they age (dark red to brick, for example), while white wines gain (clear blond to warmer gold, for example).

Next, we Swirl.
Swirling the wine around in the glass a little bit will release the aroma and give the wine a chance to mix it up, disperse a bit into the air, relax. This sets things up perfectly for the next step by allowing the aroma to release, and you can also see some "tears" or "legs" of the wine beading around the glass. The bigger the legs, the more residual sugar in the wine, the more lush and viscous. Interesting, no?

Now, the big Sniff.
You read all those entries about wine, comments about the smell of cherries, chocolate, peaches, and gingerale. Really? Can you smell all of that in a sniff from a wine glass? Well, it turns out that there are enough variables (more than 300 different organic chemical compounds) in the making of wine to create some pretty complex sniffs. So you smell the wine, and think about what it reminds you of - strong, fruity smell, earthy, spicy? Do you smell wood, smoke, toast, vanilla? Currents, blackberries, dark fruits? Greenish, young? It might be good, I am thinking, to jot down some notes about now. Go ahead, give it a try. We can compare next time.

Next, a nice Swish.
Move a nice sized sip of wine across your tongue. (After all, you need to get enough to taste it!) I understand that you will taste sweetness with the front of your tongue, then tannins on the side and cheeks, then the alcohol in the back of your throat. Wow. Taste it. What does it taste like?

Finally, Swallow.
The wine should provide a lingering aftertaste, and it should taste good. I understand that the length of finish will be longer for more complex full bodied wines, while a simple finish probably indicates a wine that should be drank while young.

There you have the high level. I don't know if I can keep all the details in my head just yet. After all, I have heard them before and they didn't stick. Could that be because I was drinking wine? Hm. But I think I can recall the See Swirl Sniff Swish Swallow. The 5 S's of the wine ritual.

I am off to practice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beginner's Mind

Yes, I have tasted wine. Hasn't everyone? Been to local wine tastings. Taken trips through Napa and Sonoma. Tasted wine in the barrel, tasted unblended wines, tasted wines that gave me headaches, wines that people love and that I hate, wines that I love and others hate, cheap wines, expensive wines, wines that lift me up and make me smile with one glass.

I have had wonderful wines paired with incredible food that change the experience of both. I have had organic wines, and wines with no tannins. I have had fabulous champagnes and ports. And you know, I still don't really know much.

I don’t know how to find inexpensive wines that I adore. I don't know how to consistently chose wonderful wines. I don't know anything about wine terminology. I don’t know the right kind of wines with the right kinds of foods – other than “white with chicken and fish, red with beef.” I don’t know how to cellar wines, when to drink them for the best taste. I don't know what wines are consistent, and what grapes are my favorite. The list of what I don't know could go on for miles.

Yep, its true, I don’t know much.

In this week of starting, taking the first tentative steps to journey down the road from “not much” to a working, practical knowledge amidst the many books, stories, magazines, experts, restaurants, websites, and more - well seriously, how shall we begin?

With a Beginner’s Mind.

From Wikipedia - Shoshin (初心, also pronounced nyuanshin) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning Beginner's Mind. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.

The phrase was also used as the title of Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki's book: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, which reflects a saying of his regarding the way to approach Zen practice: “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”

As a beginner, every resource is available. No question is too basic, no tidbit of knowledge too obscure, no approach right or wrong, no starting point inappropriate. All of these Wine Spectator's are waiting to be read and many wines are waiting to be tasted. And I am up for the challenge. This should be fun.

Next…a bit of historic perspective.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Idea

A new wine, every week. Sometimes more than one a week.

A fresh perspective. A "regular person's view" on wines, and our time with them.

An opportunity to share some learning, to make a new start.

This week, we begin.